WE Connect Guide Links Families To Services

March 17, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

A bilingual guide to many state services and programs has been developed as part of a partnership between La Opinión and WE Connect, a program created in 2005 by former First Lady of California Maria Shriver and now run by The California Endowment.

The WE Connect guide, (distributed today in this newspaper) contains valuable information to help families live healthier and more financially secure lives by connecting them to resources such as the Earned Income Tax Credit, California’s Healthy Families Program and CalFresh.

“We are proud to once again participate with WE Connect by providing Californians with valuable information on how to get resources available to them during these difficult economic times,” stated Monica Lozano, publisher of La Opinión.

The 2011 WE Connect Bilingual Suppement also includes a special message of support from California First Lady Anne Brown.
Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom has also partnered with WE Connect.

“During these tough economic times, we must come together as Californians and do everything we can to help families and individuals meet their immediate needs,” said Newsom.

The Endowment has committed to work in partnership with organizations across the state to explore creative ways to continue the work of WE Connect and develop ties with its statewide health-related initiatives.

“The Endowment is proud to ensure the WE Connect program’s outreach and education will continue,” said Robert K. Ross, M.D., president and CEO of The California Endowment.

Metro Takes SR-710 Conversations Online

March 17, 2011 by · 1 Comment 

People wanting to learn more or comment on the possible expansion of the SR-710 from Alhambra to Pasadena, will soon be able to do so from the comfort of their own home or office, according to the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro).

In addition to the 18 “SR-710 Conversations” meetings being held in local communities, Metro will conduct a new, fully interactive Online Open House virtual meeting beginning March 21.

The transportation agency is the first such government entity to allow public comment for official environmental scoping through a virtual meeting.

However, unlike a traditional meeting, the “virtual meeting” will give the public the opportunity to go on record from home, work or anywhere else whenever they choose, 24-hours a day for the next three weeks ending April 14.

Metro is using the 18 public meetings and the online virtual meeting to initiate an environmental review process that will focus on a range of solutions to specifically evaluate the effects of the SR 710 gap.

“Metro’s new SR-710 Online Open House is designed to make it as convenient as possible to contribute to the environmental process for this Measure R transportation initiative,” said Lynda Bybee, Deputy Executive Officer for Community Relations at Metro. “Our virtual open house environment will save the public time, money and gasoline. The next meeting is at your house, so take advantage of this opportunity to join the conversation.”

Metro says the meeting site uses easy-to-navigate features that guide the user through different areas for viewing presentations, downloading information and browsing displays.

Virtual participants also will be able to instantly chat with Metro staff online at their convenience during the live open house.
Metro’s Online Open House begins March 21 with a live session from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. and will remain active on Metro’s web site (metro.net/ sr710conversations) through April 14. After the live session, the public can submit questions and comments through the platform via e-mail.

For more information on upcoming “SR-710 Conversations” meetings, visit Metro’s project web site at metro.net/sr710conversations.

County Auditor to Review Partner Service Provider Pay

March 17, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

The Board of Supervisors has called for an audit of salaries at private healthcare providers with county contracts.

Spurred by a Channel 2 investigative report that Castulo de la Rocha, chief executive of AltaMed Health Services, got raises totaling about $400,000 between 2008 and 2010 and is paid about $797,000 per year, Supervisor Michael Antonovich last week urged the board to ask state auditors to look at AltaMed’s pay structure.

“Of particular concern is that this agency’s revenue is, in large part, based on public taxpayer dollars,” Antonovich said. He recommended a state audit, because AltaMed’s funding comes from multiple state, federal and local government sources. The matter was held over for one week.

Supervisor Gloria Molina on Tuesday suggested that the county auditor handle the investigation. She said the report should include all private healthcare providers that get county funding.

“It’s not the only one,” Molina said, referring to AltaMed paying its top executive nearly $800,000 per year.

According to its website, AltaMed is the state’s largest nonprofit “Federally Qualified Health Center,” with annual revenues of more than $180 million. It provides more than 650,000 annual patient visits at its 43 medical, dental and senior care centers in Los Angeles and Orange counties.

Since a full audit would touch on hundreds, if not thousands, of contractors, auditors will look at a sample of nonprofit hospitals, community clinics, mental health providers and foster and group homes that receive county funding.

The board also asked the county’s auditor-controller to make recommendations about how to deal with contract health providers, including the possibility of enforcing relevant federal guidelines in county contracts or setting compensation limits as part of county policy.

The board’s vote was 4-0 in support of the audit. Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas was absent from Tuesday’s meeting.

Alhambra Has Wright Stuff to Beat Montebello, Again

March 17, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

Alhambra High School’s dominance of Almont League baseball teams continued Tuesday as the Moors defeated Montebello, 3-0, in a league opener.

Despite some recent adversity, the Oilers took their field with a 4-1 nonleague record and looking forward to their meeting with the six-time defending league champions.

But they left it disappointed and frustrated after losing to Alhambra for the fifth consecutive time dating back to the 2009 season.

The Oilers were limited to four hits by Alhambra’s Frankie Wright, who left the game with the tying run at the plate and two outs in the seventh. Gary Acuna retired Montebello’s Alex Guerrero on a ground ball to second for the final out.

Montebello High School catcher Alex Guerrero looks to throw out a runner at first base during Tuesday’s Almont League opener. (EGP Photo by Mario Villegas)

“Frankie Wright sure pitched well, but I didn’t expect a shutout,” Montebello Coach Rafael Gutierrez said. “With all the guys we have back from last season, it’s hard to believe how poor we looked at the plate.”

Wright, a senior who mostly played the infield the past two seasons, has emerged as Alhambra’s No. 1 starter. He improved to 2-1 after throwing 109 pitches, striking out four and walking four. He also stroked two hits.

“I think he know this is his time,” Alhambra Coach Steve Gewecke said. “He waited patiently for two years until winning the No. 1 job in the fall.”

Alhambra improved to 3-2 overall with the victory.

“It’s a big game because it’s Montebello and they’re always good, but it’s just one game and now we have to go back to work,” Gewecke said. “I’m sure Bell Gardens will be ready for us on Friday.”

Alhambra’s Juan Carlos squeezed in a run in the third inning that was set up on singles by Ryan Pinon and Wright, and a sacrifice by Blake Kuehnle.

Kuehnle, the ninth batter in the order, delivered a two-run single in the sixth to drive in Andrew Figueroa, who was hit by a pitch, and Pinon, who doubled.

Jose Matos (2-1), who entered the game having thrown 12 2/3 scoreless innings, suffered the loss.

“His fastball wasn’t what it’s been,” Gutierrez said. “He got a couple of pitches up and he got hurt. He had a real live fastball Saturday at Arcadia, but he didn’t have it today.”

Gutierrez wants to see the Oilers be more aggressive at the plate.

“We take too many pitches and we have to be more aggressive, especially early in the count,” he said. “Alhambra did a good job swinging the bat today. They don’t sit back and look at fastballs. We do too much of that.”

Guerrero had two hits for Montebello and lined out hard to second with two runners on base to end a pivotal fifth inning. The senior catcher is batting .438.

Radiation Threat Remote, Says Health Official

March 17, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

Los Angeles County’s health director cautioned residents yesterday not to ingest potassium iodide as a precaution against possible radiation exposure because of the problems in Japan.

“There is no increased risk of harmful levels of radiation exposure in the United States based on the situation at the nuclear power complex in Japan,” Dr. Jonathan E. Fielding said. “Residents who ingest potassium iodide out of concern of possible exposure from this situation are doing something which is not only ineffective, but could also cause side effects.

“If a need should arise for residents to start taking potassium iodide to guard against effects of radiation exposure, the Los Angeles County Public Health Department — along with other local, state and federal agencies — will inform the public. We do not anticipate this need,” he said.

Side effects include nausea, intestinal upset, rashes, inflammation of the salivary glands and possible severe allergic reactions, he said.

With some people expressing fear about radiation from an earthquake-damaged nuclear power plant in Japan, South Coast Air Quality Management District officials said yesterday they have not detected any increase in radiation levels locally.

The AQMD operates three radiation monitors in Southern California. The agency plans to post daily updates on radiation levels on its website, www.aqmd.gov.

Monterey Park Haz Mat Responds to Chemical Leak

March 17, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

A leak involving hydrogen bromide and ammonia at a computer chip manufacturing company on Tuesday prompted a hazardous-materials response. The incident was reported at 3:30 a.m. at Kotura Inc., located at 2630 Corporate Place, Monterey Park fire Capt. Matt Hallock said.

No one was injured and while there were no formal evacuations, people were kept away from the commercial complex while crews worked to handle the problem, Hallock said. Kotura remained until the all-clear was given. An investigation was being conducted, Hallock said.

Armed Assault in Montebello Leads to Half-Hour Police Pursuit

March 17, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

A report of a woman and child being robbed by three men at gunpoint in Montebello ended in police chasing the suspects through several local cities.

The robbery was reported to have occurred on Sunday, at Garfield Avenue and Via Acosta. Responding to the crime at 9:43 p.m., police found a vehicle that matched the description of the getaway vehicle and followed it, Montebello police Lt. Andy Vuncanon said.

The chase, which started in Montebello, traveled through East Los Angeles, South Pasadena, Pasadena, Temple City, Rosemead, and downtown Los Angeles, before being stopped in Boyle Heights, the police lieutenant said.

Three men and two women got out of the car and were taken in for questioning, a weapon thrown out of the vehicle was recovered as well as the victim’s stolen purse and a cell phone, Vuncanon said.

The three suspects were charged with armed robbery and booked, said Vuncanon.

‘Missing’ Montebello Funds Gone To Restaurant Developer

March 10, 2011 by · 1 Comment 

Whatever happened to the “missing” $1 million in the city of Montebello?

City officials are now saying it was used to entice a developer to build what is now an Applebee’s restaurant at Montebello Town Square.

The use of the funds was approved by the city’s redevelopment agency, according to a 70-page press release sent out by the city today.

The $1 million was given as a forgivable loan, or “agency grant,” to developer Henry Attina, also known as Hank Attina, to build an “upscale dining” establishment similar to “Hard Rock Café or Planet Hollywood with a Latin emphasis.”

A 1999 staff report indicated that the hope was to fill an as yet “untapped market” for an “entertainment venue and restaurant” as well as to “satisfy the long-time wishes of the Montebello community.”

The agreement with Attina’s company Prime Cuts, Inc., was approved in 1999 by redevelopment agency members Kathy Salazar, William Molinari, Mary Anne Saucedo, Edward Vasquez and Art Payan, who were also the city council members.

Molinari still sits on the city council and the redevelopment agency, while the city attorney who handled the agreement, Arnold Alvarez-Glasman, is also currently retained by the city and the redevelopment agency.

The redevelopment agency’s legal budget was recently upped by $400,000, from $60,000, because of mounting legal costs from lawsuits against the redevelopment agency.

Today’s release came after officials discovered a Union Bank statement that was not on the general ledger. It was the second bank account with seemingly unknown origins. In January, the city was notified of a dormant account with Banco Popular that it had not known about.

Both these accounts were not readily accounted for on the city’s general ledger, leading to a hunt by city officials for answers. Officials later determined that the Banco Popular account was part of a loan program made available to businesses around town that needed to make improvements to their buildings.

The Union Bank account however remained a mystery as attention from the media and even the district attorney’s office – which received a complaint amid the rush for answers – mounted over questions of whether someone absconded with $1 million in city funds.

All that anyone knew at the time was that originally there was about $900,000 in the Union Bank account, and currently a little more than $5,000 remains.

The account was so old that no one in the city was authorized to view the details of the account, and a special meeting had to be held by the city council to assign authority to current city officials.

Today’s release seems to indicate that the city has found some documentation, nearly 70 pages worth, to explain the whereabouts of the $1 million that was taken out of the account.

The documents indicate the city invested a little over $900,000 into Union Bank in November 1999.

A year later, the city cashed out a larger sum of $1,007,307.17. The bulk of the money was then wired in two parts to a company called Montebello Hillside, LLC, a company owned by Attina.

When the city received this information from the bank on Monday, Interim City Administrator Peter Cosentini said they were able to do some digging of their own.

They found that Montebello Hillside LLC was linked to an agreement the city made with Prime Cuts, Inc. which promised to bring an upscale dining establishment to the city. In the process the developer was given $1 million from the agency.

The release came with attachments of bank documents, the “owner participation agreement” with Prime Cut, Inc., and agendas and reports from the redevelopment agency meetings where the wire transfers and the agreement were approved.

Cosentini says he has found “nothing illegal, to date” in the documents they have dug up so far, though there are some “outstanding questions” such as where the original $900,000 came from and whether everything is “okay with the deal” to bring a restaurant into Montebello.

“With the answering of those question, we’ll have a closed case,” said Cosentini.

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